Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Roadhouse, June 29, 2012

Okay, that's more like it.

Well, except for that one little part at the beginning.

Overall it was a good night -- it really was. By the end we had 'em hollerin' in all the right places, paper was being thrown into the tip jar (aka the Tip-Toon) and we even had a few dancers. I didn't have a chance to set up my digital recorder, so I have no evidence to support this either way, but it SEEMED like we played pretty well. I don't remember any major train wrecks, anyway. When we finished "I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water" (complete with the Big Stupid Ending*) at 11:30 and said good night, there were calls of "one more" and "uno mas," and of course we were happy to oblige.

And man oh man, we are SO grateful to everyone who was there. Including, of course, Ken's mom Pat (Ken as in Ken Carver of the Rhythm Dawgs) and her friend Don. Those guys were there from before we started at 7:30 until we finished the last song at 11:45. Puttin' those young whippersnappers to SHAME, I tell you!

Another cool thing was we had arranged for Dawg bass player Frank Calcagni to play three songs during the second set. That's always fun, because it's a chance to revisit those early three-piece Dawg days. One of the songs we did was an old song called "Just a Little Bit," with Bill on lead vocals. The Dawgs used to do it a long time ago (both as a three-piece and four-piece), but it sort of fell by the wayside somewhere along the way. I kinda had to talk Bill into it at first, but we ran through it a few times at practice and I think it came off great.
And I must send out a personal Thank You to Sean for being cool about stepping out for a few minutes and allowing me to indulge in my little "Dawg Flashback."

Anyway, so far so good, right? In the spirit of full disclosure (and that's what this space is all about, isn't it?), it didn't quite start out that way. Remember how I said that Pat and Don were there before we started? For the better part of the first set we were playing to Pat, Don and Frank. That was it. Three people. Now, granted, there were probably a few more around the corner -- the inside of The Roadhouse is L-shaped and there's a front section that you can't see from the stage -- but for a little while there we could only see three faces.

Now, in our defense, it's always a little more difficult to draw people in when it's still full daylight outside. And at 7:30 at the end of June in Central Texas the sun is still burning bright in the sky. So that was probably part of it. At least I'd like to think so.

But there was another thing, too. As soon as we finished our first song (our usual opener, Hound Dog Taylor's "Give Me Back My Wig") , the bartender came running in full panic mode with cries of "YOU'VE GOT TO TURN DOWN!!"

Sigh. The words every bar band in history is loathe to hear. Turn down.

And I though we were sounding good, too.

But what can you do? I reached over and cranked the master volume of the PA down about two-and-a-half notches and Bill counted off the next song, "Riot In Cell Block #9." But he was barely hitting the drums and hi-hat, hardly making any sound at all. Sean and I took his cue and turned our instrument volumes WAY down, too. Man, I tell you, it was quiet. Put it this way: while we were playing, I could clearly hear Pat, Don and Frank having a conversation 20 feet away, and they weren't raising their voices.

So we continued on, trying to maintain that whisper-quiet level. Actually, it was pretty funny. Bill kept making comments on the PA like, "We hope you're enjoying your stay here at the Holiday Inn," and "We'd like to remind you there will be a croquet tournament tomorrow by the pool area." The whole thing was so ridiculous it was laughable. Probably the best part was Bill's QUIET drum solo during "Shake Your Money Maker" near the end of the set. Oh man, I wish someone would have had a video camera rolling.

Somewhere in there a few more people started to filter in, and I kept wondering what they were thinking -- why is this band playing like this and what are they laughing about?

We finished the set with Tab Benoit's "Night Train," as planned, complete with my "walkabout." It felt pretty silly to be doing it at such a low volume, but I did it anyway.

I was discussing the sound with Frank on the break and he said the only thing he heard wrong with the mix on the first song was that the snare drum was too loud. (Another reason I was glad Frank was there -- a trusted set of objective ears in the audience.)

By the time we started the second set, the club was beginning to fill up a little more, so we decided to leave the PA master volume where it was but go ahead and play our instruments at a normal volume. Bill switched back to his regular sticks -- he had been using a pair of very light, thin sticks during "quiet time" -- and go ahead and hit the drums with his usual velocity. I did drop the level of the snare a bit, though.

And so we continued on. More people came in. Nobody complained. Pretty soon we had a good crowd and everybody seemed to be having a good time. The rest of the night went off without a hitch. Sean hadn't been feeling all that well or most of the week, but he still managed to get in a few of his famous dance steps during "I Asked For Whiskey, She Brought Me Gasoline."

The club never filled up completely, but we still had a good crowd all the way to the end. The last song of the night (our "uno mas") was Guitar Shorty's "Fine Cadillac," also complete with walkabout and yet another Big Stupid Ending. Slam that last chord, yell "THANK YOU GOOD NIGHT!" and hit the mp3 player for Etta James' "Something's Got A Hold On Me," which I have been trying to turn into a bit of a tradition.

So yeah, it all turned out all right.

But you know what? I should have known better than to jump in at regular volume at 7:30 at the Roadhouse. I DO know better. Some places you can just blast 'em from the get-go, but I know as well as anybody else that you've gotta go easy at the beginning at The Roadhouse. I mean, the Dawgs have played there 100 times and have ALWAYS had to worry about volume at the start of the night. That's how the Dawgwood acoustic sets got started, trying to be quiet at The Roadhouse (although it was called Gabriel's at the time).

So next time we'll take a different approach. Maybe we'll even break out he acoustic guitars for the first set, I don't know.

But, like I said, overall it was a good night.  We're working out the details to get back in there a couple of times before the end of the year and hopefully we'll have those dates pretty soon.

Until next time,

*What's a Big Stupid Ending (BSE)? Oh you know, one of those big 70s rock-show song endings, where you hit the last chord a bunch of times or some such silliness. Think "Black Diamond" from KISS Alive! and you'll get the idea. There are endless variations and I love 'em all.